An Italian Senate committee was starting a debate on
Wednesday on the lifting of parliamentary immunity for Interior
Minister Matteo Salvini, who has been charged with "kidnapping"
migrants on a rescue boat.
The charge stems from Salvini's decision in August to delay for
nearly a week, despite critical conditions on board, the disembarking
of more than 150 migrants who were rescued and taken to a Sicily port
by the Diciotti, an Italian coastguard vessel.
A special court has ruled that Salvini should face a trial over his
conduct, risking a jail term of 3 to 15 years, but it will not happen
unless the Senate - first at committee level, then in an assembly
vote - authorizes it.
The Senate committee has 30 days to examine the case, before
recommending a vote to the full house. The outcome of the procedure
Salvini, who leads the far-right League, initially said he did not
want immunity and was ready to defend his actions in court, but
changed tack on Tuesday. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and other
members of the government are standing by him.
However, Salvini's government coalition ally, the Five Star Movement,
As an anti-establishment party, it is usually opposed to
politicians' privileges like parliamentary immunity, but a vote
against Salvini could destabilize the government.
In August, the migrants were eventually let off after the Italian
Catholic Church, Albania and Ireland agreed to share the burden of
taking them in. However, the transfers to Albania have never